Find out what to expect from a home pregnancy test, how to use it, how accurate the tests are, and how early you can test after missing your period.
WORDS HARTINI ABDUL RAHMAN-LAI
Depending on how long you have been trying to conceive, one of the most nerve-wrecking moments is waiting to find out if you are indeed pregnant. You will be constantly on the lookout for the littlest sign to appear so that you can put an imaginary tick to your list of pregnancy symptoms. The most common way to find out if there is really a bun in your oven is to use a home pregnancy test, which can be purchased rather cheaply over-the-counter in pharmacies or supermarkets.
How a Home Pregnancy Test Works
A home pregnancy test works by detecting a pregnancy hormone called the human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG for short. hCG is produced by the body once the fertilised egg implants itself to the uterus wall, which usually takes about six days after the egg and sperm merge. The amount of hCG found in your blood or urine builds up quickly after every passing day that you are pregnant.
Using a Home Pregnancy Test
There are several brands in the market and some brands may be more sensitive than others but generally, most home pregnancy tests work the same way. Depending on the instructions provided in the kit, one may be required to hold the test’s stick in your urine stream, preferably the mid-stream. This means that you try not to use the first and last part of your urine to have a more accurate result. Some home pregnancy tests may need you to collect your mid-stream urine and dip the test stick into it. There are also those that instruct you to collect your mid-stream urine, use a dropper and place a few drops into a special container. Then, you need to wait for a few minutes before the result shows. Once the time is up, you should look at the ‘result window’. If a line or a plus sign appears, no matter how faint, you are pregnant. Some newer digital tests may even display “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant”.
Most home pregnancy tests also have a “control indicator”. This line or symbol will show if the test has been done correctly. If the “control indicator” does not appear, this means that the test is invalid and you will need to use another home pregnancy test. Read the instructions carefully to make sure you do the test correctly.
Timing it Right
You can use a home pregnancy test as early as your first day of missed period. However, there may be times when you might get a false-negative result. Oftentimes, home pregnancy tests claim to be 99 per cent accurate from the day the period is due but there have been cases where low levels of hCG were not detected at this very early stage of pregnancy. Because hCG levels in pregnant women rise rapidly with every passing day, you can always take the test again in a couple of days to get a more accurate result.
How Accurate are Home Pregnancy Tests?
Home pregnancy tests are rather accurate. However, there are many variables that may lead to inaccuracy.
· Testing too early – Some home pregnancy tests may not be able to detect low levels of hCG, which is fairly common in very early pregnancies. Try to do the test again in about a week if you suspect that you may be expecting.
· Not doing the test correctly – This could range from not catching the mid-stream urine, urine that is too diluted, a faulty or expired test kit, not waiting long enough for the result to appear or testing the wrong way. It is recommended that you read the instructions thoroughly before doing the test and to wait for at least 10 minutes for the result to appear.
· Medications – Most medicines should not affect the results of a home pregnancy test. This includes over-the-counter and prescription medicines, antibiotics and birth control pills. Only medicines that contain hCG or are used in combination with hCG may give a false-positive result if taken within seven to 14 days after the last drug administration.
Other Pregnancy Tests
Besides home pregnancy tests, one can also do a blood test to check for hCG. However, you would have to see a doctor to do this. A blood test can be done as early as six to eight days after ovulation as it can detect very low levels of hCG. In that sense, it is definitely more sensitive and accurate than a home pregnancy test. A doctor can do a quantitative blood test or a qualitative blood test. The former measures the exact amount of hCG levels present in your blood and thus can detect tiny amounts of hCG. The latter checks for the presence of hCG in your blood. The qualitative blood test simply gives you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ result.